At this point in his career, Detroit Rapper Danny Brown is a veteran to the game. Brown’s resumé boasts top-notch, critically acclaimed records. “XXX,” the album that put him into the underground spotlight, took listeners on a point-of-view ride through Danny Brown’s life, dealing with mental illness, drug addiction and afflictions from systematic oppression. The following album “Old” held similar themes but brought an intensified focus on the ups and downs of a drug-fueled binge. His last album “Atrocity Exhibition”, was peak Danny Brown, in the sense of gritty subject matter and psychedelic instrumentation. It sounds like Brown is locked in at the studio during an immense come-down – it was uncontrolled and manic.
Brown’s music is like an open diary, where he vividly details his innermost insecurities and struggles. He is often raw and uncut in showing the ugly he’s seen with immense detail. Listeners understand where he is at in his life, through battling drug addiction to finding his footing in the rap game. His music makes it apparent that it has been difficult to balance his often self-destructive lifestyle. While his self-destruction may create good music, it isn’t self-sustaining.
On his fifth studio album “uknowhatimsayin?” Brown seems to find himself at an elevated level. While usually seeming to be in the depths of despair, the content of this record suggests Brown is now in control of his own life. From lyrical content to instrumentation, this record is colorful, joyous and goofy. Brown allows his comedic side to shine– a personal trait that has flourished in his past work, but never as a focal point. This album is a step forward in Brown’s personal growth.
“Best Life” exemplifies the growth he has accomplished in the past few years. Brown flows over an uplifting and soulful loop. He speaks on the difficulty of successfully navigating through the blockades of systematic oppression designed to make lower-income societally disadvantaged groups fail. Yet, in the chorus he reiterates, “cause ain’t no next life, so I’m just trying to live my best life.”
On the title-track, “uknowhatimsaying?”, Brown relays common occurrences that we all deal with throughout life, like being “backstabbed by somebody you love”. His nonchalant flow is properly paired with the carefree and loose flow. He describes relatable moments, both good and bad, but his delivery makes it optimistic, largely because everyone can relate to these problems.
Although much of this album is carefree and light, it wouldn’t be a Danny Brown album without some hard-hitting bangers over unsuspecting instrumentals. The songs “3 Tearz” featuring Run The Jewels, and “Savage Nomad” bring back an aggressive Danny Brown over instrumentals that leave the listener bobbing their head for the entirety of the track.
Brown is also exploring new grounds that would have never been expected based off previous work. The track “Combat” has an unlisted feature from A Tribe Called Quest and sounds like it could nestle right into the midst of their jazzy boom-bap 90s album “Midnight Marauders.” On another note, the song “Shine” featuring Blood Orange is a slowed-down self-reflective description of the risky pathway he has taken and the reality that he could lose everything at any moment.
“Uknowhatimsayin?” isn’t comparable to the rest of Brown’s work. It doesn’t have the dark disparities of “XXX” nor does it have the electrified and abrasive tracks of “Old”. It isn’t Brown at a low point, hopeful of finding any way to free himself of the misunderstood misery he has had to deal with for far too long. Instead, it is Brown free of that pain, at the newest form of himself. As he has done with past work, this is further insight into his life, but for this entry into the journal that is his discography, he finally seems to be at the place he has always wished to be.